Keys to the Past

Local History

Consett (County Durham)

Consett © DCC 2007
Consett © DCC 2007

Until the 1840s Consett (or Conside as it was then known) was just a small village, and part of the nearby parish of Medomsley. Records record only three named houses and a couple of thatched cottages in what is now known as Sherburn Terrace. The name of the site probably ultimately comes from the Old English for 'side of the hilltop'. Although it has been suggested that there were Roman sites at Chesters and Broom Hill there is no firm evidence for settlement in the parish this early, though the remains of the Roman road known as Dere Street runs through the area.

However, it was in the mid-19th century that Consett was transformed from quiet Durham village to an industrial powerhouse, with the formation of the Derwent Iron Company. This was formed to use the local ironstone and [coal] supplies. An ironworks was laid out, and the remains known as {'The Blue Heaps'} may have been part of the earliest experiments in blast furnace technology.

The early years were not easy though; the ironstone ran out faster than anticipated, so alternative supplies had to be found in Cumbria and Cleveland. Despite these problems, by the 1860s the works became increasingly successful, with over 18 furnaces, as well as rolling mills, coke ovens and foundries. In the 1870s the production of steel became increasingly important, and the Consett industries supplied steel for shipbuilding and the railway industry. In the early 20th century World War I was a busy time, and the company was taken under control of the Ministry of Munitions. The immediate post-war period also saw a trade boom, and the company even had four ships which were used to carry iron ore from as far away as Spain. However, the depression arrived in the 1920s, though the company continued to invest and new mill and furnaces were built, as were large areas of housing for the workers.

The impact of the First World War on the inhabitants of Consett and other villages within the wider urban district can be seen in the plethora of war memorial sites in the area. Memorial monuments of many different types can be found within Consett, Craghead, Blackhill, Ebchester, Hamsterley Colliery, Iveston, Leadgate and Medomsley. Many of the local churches also contain war memorials in the form of Rolls of Honour, books of remembrance and plaques dedicated to individuals from local areas who fought and died in the conflict. Burnopfield and Dipton to the northeast of the parish also have a variety of these types of memorial sites.

Wartime hospital sites can also be found within the parish: the Richard Murray Hospital in Consett and Benfieldside House at Shotley Bridge were both used as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospitals. The sites of lost war relics can also be found, such as the site of a WW1 tank which was installed in Consett Park but later removed to aid the war effort in WW2.

The outbreak of war in 1939 meant another busy period. In the post-war period there were difficult times with the steel industry and coal industry being nationalised. However, in the early 1960s Consett was still making some of the best quality steel in the world. The end finally came on September 12th 1980 when the steelworks were shutdown, ending nearly 150 years of iron and steelmaking in the town.

Reference number:D6768

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Please note that this information has been compiled from a number of different sources. Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council can accept no responsibility for any inaccuracy contained therein. If you wish to use/copy any of the images, please ensure that you read the Copyright information provided.